South Korea opened its tightly controlled gambling market yesterday and approved a US$697 million investment plan by foreign investors to build the country’s biggest casino town.
LOCZ Korea, a joint venture between Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment and Indonesia’s Lippo Group, has been given permission to open a foreigner-only casino in 2018, the culture ministry said.
The casino will be the first to be owned and operated by any foreign investors in South Korea.
It will become the country’s largest casino serving exclusively foreigners and boost the tourism industry and tax revenues, according to the ministry.
The new casino town will feature hotels, convention centres, and shopping malls and will be located near Incheon International Airport, South Korea’s main gateway, the casino operators said.
The firms will invest 744 billion won (US$697 million) in the project.
The airport is on an island about 40km west of Seoul and handles about 35 million passengers a year. The ministry hopes the casino will attract more foreign tourists into South Korea.
The ministry will review in January 2018 whether the Lippo-Caesars consortium’s investment is carried out as planned before giving a final casino license. The launch of the resort is expected three months later.
LOCZ Korea plans to turn the casino town into an integrated resort city with more investments by 2023, the ministry said.
Casinos provide a consistent source of hard currency revenue and fuel tourism, but South Korea strictly limits entry to its own citizens.
Of South Korea’s 17 licensed casinos, only one — Kangwon Land Resort in Gangwon Province east of Seoul — is open to locals.
Last year the foreigner-only casinos pulled in 2.7 million visitors with their combined revenue standing at 1.37 trillion won.